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Decentering: A construct to analyze and explain teacher actions as they relate to student thinking


"Mathematics educators and writers of mathematics education policy documents continue to emphasize the importance of teachers focusing on and using student thinking to inform their instructional decisions and interactions with students. In this paper, we characterize the interactions between a teacher and student(s) that exhibit this focus. Specifically, we extend previous work in this area by utilizing Piaget's construct of decentering (The language and thought of the child. Meridian Books, Cleveland, 1955) to explain teachers' actions relative to both their thinking and their students' thinking. In characterizing decentering with respect to a teacher's focus on student thinking, we use two illustrations that highlight the importance of decentering in making in-the-moment decisions that are based on student thinking. We also discuss the influence of teacher decentering actions on the quality of student-teacher interactions and their influence on student learning. We close by discussing various implications of decentering, including how decentering is related to other research constructs including teachers' development and enactment of mathematical knowledge for teaching."